Project management is mission critical

Project management is mission critical

Just like analysts, project managers, are to provide added value and will play a crucial role in the success or failure of a project. So when you use them you have to do it right. If not, you are adding a force multiplier to project failure. In other words you are committing self inflicted harm or sabotage.

Work, Workplace, Office, Computer, Desk, Laptop

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Say what?

The above might seem obvious. Project management is mission critical but very often project management is left to the run off in our labor pool. This gives the profession a bad name. Even worse, by association, it ruins the reputation of the people or organizations that hire or engage them. Body shopping shop and “rent a body” outfits benefit from the idea that project management is a thirteen in a dozen job that translates into overpriced meeting transcriptions and carbon fiber Outlook calendar “automation”. In reality the customer is of way better with a real good secretary and people who know how to organize a meeting.

Project management done wrong doesn’t add any value to the project. On top of that it causes expensive and annoying overhead where the death weight of the PM becomes a nuisance at best. Potentially it becomes a fatal burden.

The 3 critical skills of a project manager

People skills

People respond to you in a way that depends on you threat them. They are a mirror. If you step on them for your own agenda or to protect your billable hours it will be noted and never forgotten.

Diplomacy

Some people state that diplomacy is the fine art of telling people to go to hell and feel good about it. Well, maybe. There are two cases for diplomacy in project management when the situation or relationships are bad and cannot be fixed:

  • Neutralize saboteurs, idiots, bad politics and hidden agenda’s in the most eloquent and pleasant way possible in order not to jeopardize the final outcome of the project.
  • It’s what you do to keep the above occupied before you get rid of them if that’s an option. In that regards PMs are morphine. They make the bad elements believe things will be fine, to make sure it painless while they’re terminated.

A PM needs to fight and defend the people they work for. If you do not agree with the people you work with or cannot agree with them because they are wrong, you have to walk away. If not, you’re just there for the paycheck at the expense of others and the project.

Subject Matter Expertise

Don’t bother sending a PM that’s not a subject matter expert. It’s a waste of time, effort and money. If the PM doesn’t understand the area of expertise, can’t learn fast and doesn’t trust the team experts it will never work out. Perhaps even worse is that many times they don’t care and the subject matter is seen as the dough to be put through the generic project management cookie cutter.

It ruins moral to be led by an incompetent, uncaring PM that is unable to truly weigh the pros and cons to the benefit of the result. In such cases they are dead weight, holding back progress and ideas which results in a very predictable failure. You’ll see burn outs, depression or people who walk. in the end it all signals the same. They don’t want to or cannot deal with the crap anymore. Results do matter and in the end no one buys a journey or services. We pay for results.

Conclusion

Do it really well or cut the bullshit and get on without one, the results without a PM are always better than with a bad one. I know it’s a dog eat dog world out there and that’ just how things flow but when a dog comes to eat your lunch you don’t play victim to circumstances. You act or you perish. A quick search reveals many are having issues with project management instead of being helped by it. It doesn’t need to be that way.

How tech debt happens

Introduction

While I plan our actions to improve or add new functionality I always refer back to my “map” on where we are, where we need to go. It helps me see the terrain, the problems, challenges, obstacles, opportunities, possibilities in the grand scheme of what I call in big words my strategy & doctrine. Sometimes it’s big in time, complexity or budget and sometimes it’s a small target of opportunity that has both immediate & long term benefits. On of those targets of opportunity is to make sure that every upgrade/migration of Hyper-V workloads lands on a generation 2 virtual machines running on Windows Server  2016 Hyper-V. Seemingly unimportant, yet … when you understand how tech debt happens you’ll see it does make a difference when done with a plan.

How tech debt happens

I have witnessed tens of millions wasted over the years by organizations that fell into every tech debt trap there is. Never forget that it’s not just bad because of failed goals and added costs but also due to being stuck and missing out on opportunities. It’s astonishing to see how bad it can become. Even at organizations that like to act and profile themselves at being modern, agile and in full digital transformation mode. Look, buzz words & glossy brochure like pictures on an “infomercial” website don’t make you the real deal. Yet while I spend many words on illustrating how tech debt happens, it’s easy to sum up.

How tech debt happens

Technical debt exists because people don’t realize what it is, how it materializes and how badly it effects the organization. And for the record, not every legacy is debt just like not all redundancy is bad.

Avoiding Tech Debt

So how do you avoid getting tech debt? Well by understanding you get  into it and doing something about it! The lack of process or understanding (even worse, I rather have no process but with understanding) to the real nature, causes and effects of technical debt. This leads to decisions void of any consideration of the implications. There’s a ton of individual reasons all across the board that will create tech debt.

Business pressure

One of them is “business” pressure, the need to be seen as in charge and get things done. This “can do” attitude is a killer of improvement and competence. It leads to an environment where what sucks can’t be pin pointed because people focus on showing how good they are instead of finding and fixing what’s broken. They have to or they cant constantly answer “Can do” to every request. In short a 100% can do culture will make you fail.

The results are many. let’s look at some of them. Having ITIL and a change board that is so ridiculously heavy in overhead because it’s the blind leading the blind and serves only to have the checkbox ticked. After some time the process is simplified and automated (send in docs that no one reads but it does lead to an approval e-mail) and over a longer period of time it’s ignored. This leads to a constant barrage of last minute specification changes without a clue as to their impact.

Scope creep & scope dumping

Scope creep: non-managed changes or perhaps better worded and more realistically, changes by people with no technical clue but a lot of pressure and a desire to please other people of server other needs. There’s also the opposite, scope dumping: Ill considered scope reduction by people who need to make deadlines or avoid complexity they don’t want to deal with, often under business pressure.

Integration is still important

Lack of integration is another. Yes we all know we need to reduce plumbing in IT but the reality is that good, necessary plumbing avoids a truck load of problems. If you want to avoid spending too much time keeping the lights on you’ll need to do good plumbing to avoid flooding.

Handing over the key to the kingdom

Relying too much on consulting, external advisors. Always ask your self who they work for and why. Follow the money. The money will lead you to the one paying and than you’ll find out their politics, plans and ambitions. If these are not yours, alarm bells should
Disdain for learning, testing, hands on work. Knowledge comes from understanding and that requires doing. Doing with understanding grows skills, insight an knowledge to be effective when needed. If I want to destroy a company I send in consultants and I make sure they hire the wrong employees. It’s a long term play against my enemies where they fall for the perceived short term benefits for them. When I see a CEO that makes tens of millions and year after year you see the company do down the drain you just know they are not worth the money and their presence makes no difference what so ever. You could have gotten those results way cheaper.

The right stuff

Lack of any real functional documentation and insights is also an issue. You need to have the elements to find out how things are done quickly. That doesn’t mean 100% perfect descriptions to the smalls detail. That’s just windows dressing. Quality trumps quantity. This goes for anything, processes, documentation and people. Beckwith was right when he said “I’d rather go down the river with 7 man than with a 100 shitheads”

Incompetence floats to the top

The lack of a good command & control structure due to not having competent management is also problematic along with a lack of skills, talent & knowledge. Yup, too many Peter principle people looking out for number one will catalyze all bad things. Put the right people in the right place. Hard to do when you think you can but actually can’t … or when power play and politics are way more important than effective results. This leads to lack of collaboration in an environment where everybody survives in isolation instead of thriving  by working together. The results are a lack of maintenance, updates, migrations, rebuilds to improve current and support future needs.

Own the problems

Which brings us to the lack of ownership. Here you’ll often see that a PO or PM only is responsible on paper and doesn’t have a clue about the service. They don’t care about it, let alone about the effects on some other business unit. The deficiency in business and technological leadership, leads to avoiding responsibility. Problems are just thrown over the wall and any issues that appear are just assigned to the “incompetence” of the staff.

Conclusion

Tech Debt has many reasons and that’s why it’s hard to avoid and fix. But it can be done. But you cannot buy your way out or outsource solving the problem.

Innovation As A Service

Disclaimer: The Dilbert® Life series is a string of post on corporate culture from hell and dysfunctional organizations running wild. This can be quite shocking and sobering. A sense of humor will help when reading this. If you need to live in a sugar coated world were all is well and bliss and think all you do is close to godliness, stop reading right now and forget about the blog entries. It’s going to be dark. Pitch black at times actually, with a twist of humor, if you can laugh at yourself.

Innovation As A Service for sale

Innovation! Get your fresh, real innovation right here ladies and gentlemen! Buy 3 innovations and pay only two! That’s right, the economies of scale at your fingertips. Get your innovation right here and now at pennies to the dollar!

You cannot buy innovation as a service. Maybe that’s why this website is painfully accurate. There is no such thing.

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Results and success don’t come as the outcome of a process you can buy and follow. Creating some incubators, handing out some funds or price money isn’t going to help you innovate one bit.

This is especially true when you’re an organization that hasn’t got a culture to stimulate it. Not because culture will always determinate an outcome but because if your culture doesn’t evolve to enable what you need it probably isn’t a cause but a result. The result of lacking a real strategy.

When you’re not a small, agile, talent and motivation driven company it’s hard to become one by acquiring the resources (ideas, talent, motivation, products) you need. Many try but fail. Some succeed but even then it’s a time limited success. Innovation is an ongoing activity. Success is a temporary result. It’s not a long term, well defined and understood process or product. If it was it wouldn’t be innovative.

When you’re you need to optimize your processes or replace them if they can be optimized.

The organizational paradox

Innovation, or any “hot” item in business is like sex. The more people talk about it and want it the less it’s going to happen. This is frustrating too many so they try to facilitate or force some success. This leads to disappointing, second rate, clumsy and poor experiences compared to what it’s supposed to be.

As production, distribution and services are being disrupted by automation or even automatic / autonomous technology we see that profits come under stress. That means more with less, reduction of the work force & optimizing processes to reduce cost & optimize profits. This leads to more and more commodity driven businesses and organizations that are trying to compete on cost. - Dilbert by Scott Adams

A magic word has appeared that’s supposed to deliver a prosperous future for all of us. All this while we save ourselves into poverty and reduce our value into nothing more than 1 or 2 % better efficiencies than any other organizations at delivering commodities. If you don’t have a factual (Energy, “to big to fail” banking, …) or legal (notaries, IRS, …) monopoly you have very little margin as an excuse for your existence. So now we all have to be innovative. Never mind that you’re in the least innovative business on earth. Innovation it is as everyone is doing it, has or wants it. So must we or we’re clearly “out of touch”.

Get in the ring!

Pretending to be a boxer is lots of fun until you have to get into the ring and fight. When you step into the ring and your opponent smacks you in the face even your best plans fall apart. Let alone that sorry excuses of a plan you have in lieu of training, skills and motivation.

It’s very hard for established, highly regulated companies to really innovate. They’re about avoiding risks, optimizing processes & following procedures. The aim is to get the best predictable results with the fewest cost & overhead as long as this doesn’t endanger the processes and regulations. It just isn’t compatible with agility and innovation.

Now some large organizations can deal with this and make it a success.  It requires truly great strategies, strategists and some serious skills to make them materialize. Not a small feat to pull off! But way to many can’t. Nothing has eternal live. It’s even worse when such organizations make their innovation islands or incubators dependent on centralized, slow moving, process driven services & processes. That’s like swimming with an anvil tied around your ankle. Good luck!

DilbertInnovation

Let small organizations exist. Give them the freedom and independency they need to function. This entire mindset of centralized large entities that are driven by economies of scale with a giant focus (or at least the pretense of that) on efficiency of what already exists is mind numbing to most of us. Let alone to the best and brightest. It only “rewards” the accountant mindset. Trying to fix this with “pockets” of innovation and agility is like a reservation. It keeps a species alive artificially but it doesn’t make that species have a future and be all it can be to fulfill its potential It rewards opportunists who claim to be pioneers. Those that want the benefits and rewards that comes with that status without having to do the hard work. It’s lip service, smoke and mirrors.

The fallacy of bimodal IT in this regard is that a schizophrenic organization, with only two opposite extremes, is supposed to transition the fruits between those two “just like that”. The entire process, the evolution required and the gradual cultural shifts to bring the results of agility and innovation to the process driven highly regulated side of the business is never ever discussed or mentioned.

That “integration” is supposed to happen naturally & apparently without issues or effort. That’s a very hard order to fill It’s as if you can zip up the files of your project and e-mail them to the regulated part of the business and that’s all what’s needed. At best they’ll give you SharePoint Online and claim they’ve dealt with that issue as they don’t use attachments anymore. And no, a “Chief Integration Officer” is not going to help. But I’m sure you’ll find plenty of candidates to fill that function when you attach a higher pay grade to it. But just like innovation we’ll see the call for “bimodal” it along with many practitioners, consultants and coaches selling it. The successes will be rare and hard to find.

Blue ring to celebrate 5 years as a Microsoft MVP

A week ago I got a package in the post. It contained a smaller box with in it a blue ring to celebrate 5 years as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP). First in the Hyper-V expertise and now in Cloud and Datacenter Management.

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To all the people and organizations that have given me opportunities, that supported me and trusted me, I’d like to say thank you. It’s been a blast to be able to learn, test, design, build ad support so many solutions over the years. Sharing those experiences and insights helped me grow as much as anyone else. I’m convinced that every Euro or Dollar spent on my growth has had a ROI much greater than it ever cost. The mission for the years ahead is to keep learning and evolving. The job is for paying bills but all the effort and time spent is another occupational level, one I hope every one finds to have fun  whilst working.

Thank you!